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HOW TO PLAN YOUR ANODIZING JOB

July 20, 2020

Those of us in the anodizing business have the unique opportunity to often be the very first people to see what a finished part actually looks like. Anodizing is normally the final step in the manufacturing supply chain, unless a part will become part of a larger assembly. But many parts we produce are the final, finished product. Getting to that final step from the initial hunk of aluminum is a story of ingenuity and technological achievement, but nonetheless, some crazy stuff happens along the way. Here are some tips on how to ensure that your parts get completed beautifully, and on time and budget.

Make sure you know what your customer wants

Many customers come to us and say they want “black anodize”. We even see it printed on engineering drawings! But that’s like going to McDonalds and just asking for a “burger”. A little specificity goes a long way to ensuring your satisfaction, which is why at Anotek we will always ask you if you actually meant “MIL-A-8625 Type II Class 2 Black”. We’re not just showing off when we ask that – it makes a real difference, especially if the parts you are manufacturing belong to a customer with a recognized quality system. Otherwise, you could just have them processed by some guy with a couple of buckets and a jug of sulfuric acid in his garage. (Plenty of dodgy advice on this process is available on Youtube!)

The process you ask for will affect the quote you get, and the final price you pay. It will also determine other factors such as the final look of the part, its size, its corrosion resistance and how well paint sticks to it. It can even affect your ability to export your parts because certain chemistry is prohibited by international agreements and it would be a shame to scrap an order just because you allowed your supplier to process your parts in prohibited solutions.

How do you figure all that out? Read on.

Consult with your supplier

That’s right. Give your supplier a quick call. Tell us what you want, what you think your customer wants, the end purpose of the parts, and any other information you think might be pertinent. We will probably also have some questions of our own, such as how to rack the parts, what kind of shade or colour you want, whether a matte or polished finish is desired, and we’ll also give you advice on how to achieve all that. If you call Anotek, all that advice is free!

Leave enough time for the job

Anodizing is the last step before assembly. Frequently when a customer drops off parts, they ask about our current lead time and after a few years in this business you can sense from the urgency of their voices how good a job they did planning their project. The more urgent the tone, the less successful the plan. Many project planners simply fail to leave enough time for finishing. Add any number of small delays during the machining process and all of a sudden, it’s a crisis as delivery dates loom. Anodizing takes time, so be sure to build it into your schedule or your processing costs will balloon because you end up paying expedite fees. A little secret about expedite fees: they exist only as a deterrent to customers that continually asking for their parts the next day. Make no mistake, that happens – a lot.  

Consider running a sample

The happiest customers are the ones that know what type of finish to expect when their job arrives home on their shipping dock. They achieve this by running a sample! Anotek Anodizing will happily run a sample for you, free of charge, to ensure that our process meets your requirements. A test run like this will show you exactly how the process operates with the alloy and temper of your parts. It will highlight the pros and cons of the surface finish you have chosen (ie. grained, brush-finished, shot-peened, polished) and it will show you what shade a particular colour will be once it’s finished. It also gives us experience in racking your part to ensure success. No one likes surprises and without a sample, you can be almost guaranteed to be surprised about something.

Get your PO right

Once again, this is not us being snobby: the MIL-A-8625 specification actually lists a whole bunch of criteria that customers should define on their purchase order (technically, these criteria are not a requirement but if they are not on your PO, then you can’t complain if you don’t get what you want.) This is part of the reason Anotek encourages customers to consult with us: we will take the guesswork out and let you know what to put on your PO! For certain industries, such as aerospace, there are very strict flowdown requirements established by OEMs and part of Anotek’s service model is to review each PO and let you know whether you are compliant. 

What all this boils down to is that the best way to plan your job is talk to your supplier before you start manufacturing. That way you can avoid being like the guy who shipped us 24-foot long extrusions and then had to pay to have them all shipped away again when we told him our tanks are only 10 feet long. Or the guy who was annoyed that we could not rack his parts because ALL the surfaces were cosmetic. Or the guy who thought the scratch on his part would disappear when we etched it. Or the guy who… never mind. You get the picture.

For a free consultation on your anodizing, chem conversion, NDT or primer requirements, please call me at +1 (604) 459-2868.